Two cakes sit on the counter. One, from the Dairy Queen, is mostly chocolate and vanilla ice cream with a cookie crumble layer. The other, from Grandma’s house, is a chocolate cake covered in lavender frosting—not quite what we were expecting.

This is just the way the color turned out, Grandma tells us, showing us the royal blue napkin with primary colors she tried to match. Both have the words “Happy Birthday” written in frosting.

Tonight, we are celebrating two birthdays three days apart. My stepsons have asked for separate parties; we’ve convinced them to start together with dinner for friends and family. Later, the grandparents will leave, and the boys and their friends will divide into two groups for sleepovers.

My husband still smells like charred meat from his extended grill duty as we gather twelve pubescent boys amid parents and step-parents, grandparents, step-grandparents, and uncles. We can’t even imagine what this family tree would look like sketched out on paper, so we just circle the table, the smell of boys and meat and purple frosting thick in the air.